I'm headed to Tahoe next week for Labor Day and thought it appropriate (and timely) to invite my COMPASS colleagues, Nicole and Jamison Blair of Team Blair Tahoe to speak about vacation-home ownership. While I don't usually feature other writers (because, why?), I loved how Nicole captured both the pain and the pleasure of owning a second home. Nicole and her husband, Jamie, are my "go to" Agents in Tahoe and this article points out why. Please enjoy.
Falling Out of Love?
It’s always love at first sight, until you can’t stand the sight of it anymore. (I'm not talking about your boyfriend, I'm talking about your second home.)
Owning a vacation home can sometimes seem like an exotic romance as viewed on a perfectly-manipulated HGTV reality show; (Uhhh, where's the "real" part?) however, things can quickly change when the cameras turn away and moonlit walks on powder-white sandy beaches are replaced with traffic-congested commutes to get there, yellow pine pollen EVERYWHERE, snow-covered roofs & driveways, bears upsetting your trash cans, endless loads of sheets and towels, and untidy friends and family.
“Who left this mess in here!?!” (The bear.)
"Good morning," I said to the mother and her son, as they walked past my garden. "First day of school?"
"Yes," his mom said with pride, "Zachery's starting kindergarten."
"Good luck," I said to the sweet young boy as they walked on, his new Spiderman backpack disappearing around the corner.
Which reminded me that even though it's only August, school is formally in session and as my house sits en route to the local elementary, I happily get to watch the parade of darling children (and their helicopter parents) walk by each morning, while my dog, Riley, barks hello. These young kids (and their parents) are excited, nervous, anxious, hopeful and uncertain . . . kind of like your average Buyer or Seller.
I'd spent 20 minutes on hold listening to elevator music and still no answer. The reason for my call? A puddle of water roughly the size of Rhode Island I'd found on my kitchen floor. It seems the freezer had malfunctioned overnight and melted everything inside, including a 5 lb. bag of ice. (Anyone who knows me, knows I'm all about the ice.)
Mr. Kim is my tried-and-true East Bay appliance repairman and he's great, but I'd been told that if anyone other than a "certified Kitchen Aid consultant" serviced the refrigerator, it would void the warranty on the coolant system; thus, the call to an 800 number and the loooong wait.
While out on rounds last week, I stopped at a lemonade stand and bought, perhaps, the worst glass of lemonade I've ever had. Fizzy, warm, no ice, out of a can, and not much flavor, but that's beside the point. I NEVER pass up a lemonade stand if I can help it, having both manned such booths myself as a little girl in Sacramento (of course I did), and then helping my boys and their friends much later on, when I had kids. Lemonade is about the principle, never mind the product.
The thing is, these little girls didn't stand much chance at success even if their lemonade had been the BEST I'd ever tasted as their stand was in the middle of the block on a quiet residential street in Berkeley. Had they been thinking strategically, they would have moved their table down a few houses and placed it in front of their neighbor's listing on Brokers' Tour, thereby acquiring a highly-captive audience. (I'm not the only Realtor with a soft heart and an open wallet.)
Jill's away on vacation in Marblehead which leaves me manning the store alone. Even on holiday, she couldn't resist sending me a photo of a charming seaside building she spotted while out on a walk with her girlfriends. It makes for a good Instagram Post to be sure, but as your Realtor, I wouldn't recommend such a purchase unless you're ready to take on a major "fixer.'
Zoom in and it's not nearly so charming after all. I don't mean to be judgemental (uh yeah, I do) but someone needs to replace those windows and power wash the shingles, post haste!
While Jill collects seashells at the seashore, I've just put a darling young family into contract on their first home in Alameda. It's a bit of a "diamond in the rough" so it's no surprise that it comes with a few issues that require attention, some of which are immediately apparent (dated kitchen and bathrooms) and some which are not (dry rot, galvanized pipes, termites).
I'm not a fan of the current administration, much less the inappropriate behavior displayed by so many of our political leaders, on either side of the aisle, so imagine my surprise when the President's protestations of "fake news" actually hit home last week and I had an opportunity to experience the concept of 'false claims' up close and personally.
For the last month and a half, my COMPASS colleague, Sarah Abel, and I have been marketing a beautiful property here in Piedmont and we were thrilled when it went into contract on schedule with a professional young couple buying their first house together.
We were less thrilled when we received an email 10 days later from their Realtor, saying that the Buyers had decided to back out of the purchase based on an engineering report that recommended substantial improvements to the seismic and drainage systems of the house, adding up to a fair amount of additional costs. (Who wouldn't pause and take note?)
"No!" the instructor screamed at the flustered woman who had unknowingly volunteered for the afternoon's literary exercise and was struggling to figure out what - exactly - this New York literary agent was asking?!?
"I'm not interested in hearing how your character's mother felt about it. I want to know how Lottie feels" he said. "Do any of you care what I had for breakfast?" (Not now, we don't.)
"Let me understand this, you want me to pay you for representing YOUR INTERESTS on the purchase of this home?" I said, frankly dumbfounded.
"I've got a gal in Lafayette that will work for 1%," the Buyer said. "Your answer will affect who we choose to work with."
"Where is that Agent now?" I asked, wondering why I'd spent the day working on his behalf.
"I don't make her schlep me from house to house," he said. "Our deal is that she writes up the offer once I do the work."
Correction: ONCE I DO THE WORK!
"I refuse to overpay for this house," the skeptical Buyer said. "I bought in San Francisco in 2007 and then rode the market all the way down until I sold for a substantial loss."
I feel your pain; I do, although I take issue with the concept of "overpaying for a house." You are not 'overpaying' for a house, you are paying 'what the market will bear.' "
"What's that house you sold worth today?" I asked.
"About a million more," he said.
"Then I respectfully submit that the problem wasn't when you bought the house, the problem was when you chose to sell it."
I should have been suspicious when our Backroad's troop leader, Luca, explained "There are three kinds of fun . . ."
"There's the kind of fun you have in the moment."
"There's the kind of fun you have when you reach the top of the hill."
"And there's the kind of fun you have when you reflect on the trip afterwards when you get home."
To quote Scooby-Doo, "Ruh Ro."
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 14 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.